Monday, May 18, 2009

The Air Force Museum and the National Park

DDN editorialist Ellen Belcher opened up an interesting discussion with her op-ed on the relationship of the National Musuem of the US Air Force and the Dayton Aviation National Historic Park.

The Air Force Musuem is one of the great tourist attractions of Ohio, and it's free. So is the National Park (at least the parts that are actually controlled and staffed by the Park Service). And co-0peration between Wright-Patterson AFB and the National Park Service is ongoing, though not as visible as during the establishment of the park. In fact, this partnership is written into law, into the enabling legislation establishing the historic park.

But the question for local boosters is how to tap into this tourist flow to the Museum. Perhaps the issue is less what the Museum can do (it's mission is, after all, preseving and interpreting military aviation) and more what the local convetion and visitors bureaus can do.

And that its a good example of local balkanization as there are two; one for Greene County and another for Mongtomery County. How well do they cooperate in promoting tourist attractions in the entire region? The Museum is, technically, in Montgomery County. The nearest concentration of hotels for visitors is in Greene County. So it seems there is at least a mutually beneficial relationship possible, promoting the Museum but also the national park sites, one which is actually on the base in Greene County, and the other in Dayton.

Perhaps mostly a problem of marketing to a national audience.

Yet, finally, isn't it a matter of what turns the public on? Maybe people are just more interested in vintage fighters and bombers and the men that flew them. The Wrights don't seem as compelling a story, one that visitors with limited time will pass on.

Maybe this National Historic Park has, by its very subject matter, a somewhat limited audience compared to the Museum.


Anonymous said...

I guess I am in the minority here, but I feel that Huffman Prairie is one of the most inspirational places I've ever been. It motivates me to challenge what others may think impossible. The Air Force Museum is neat, but I don't get that feeling...I suppose place matters to me, things not as much.

Joe Patterson said...

In total agreement here. It's amazing what was accomplished there about 100 years ago. It's also the title of a great Guided By Voices song off Half Smiles of the Decomposed. Check it out!

Jefferey said...

I tend to agree with Anonymous on Huffman Prairie. It's a sacred space of a sort.

Unknown said...

Jeffrey-You've touched on an important point about marketing this area. While I've seen some partnering between Montgomery and Greene County CVBs, for the most part, they advertise their venues as if they're competitors. That's a shame, because a joint effort could lure a much larger audience and larger groups to the area for conventions, tourism, etc. Concerning the AF Museum, it's my understanding from talking with people knowledgeable about the museum's management philosophy, that it considers itself a stand-alone attraction that needs little support from other local venues. On the other hand, it also is not interested in working with other venues in promoting the region. It feels it doesn't have to. That's a pity, because the synergy of multiple attractions could promote more visitors and more economic benefits for everyone concerned. Dayton is more than just the Air Force Museum.

Unknown said...

One other point, the National Park Service has no marketing budget. It relies upon the community and cooperating agencies to promote the fact that a national park exists in its region.

Jefferey said...

Then its really up to the local CVBs to promote the National Park, since the Museum apparently could care less.